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Your character, @, is made up of a combination of Stats, Traits and Skills, all of which are very important to the game. While Skills can be trained and some Traits altered by mutations, Stats never change, although there are some temporary effects that affect them. Things such as weather, diseases and medication may change your Stats and Traits temporarily. Bear in mind Cataclysm is a rogue-like in which permadeath is always on. There are only a few items that can actually change your Stats and Traits, but they are quite rare and they can go wrong!

Character creation

Creating your character is easy, but does involve a few steps.

Play now!

This is a great way to jump in to Cataclysm: Dark Days Ahead. There is deep customization available in your C:DDA experience, but having a basic understanding of the game first will better inform how you choose to tweak it for yourself. It is recommended that you start playing first and then move into the huge, and sometimes obtuse, world and character creation options.

From the initial menu you have a list of options: [MOTD] [New Game] [Load] [World] [Special] [Options] [Help] [Credits] [Quit]
Choose [New Game] to see a sub-menu: [Custom Character] [Preset Character] [Random Character] [Play Now!]
If you choose [Play Now!] here you will be loaded into a default world with no mods and a randomly generated character with random stats, traits, and skills in the Evac shelter.
Good luck survivor! See Controls, FAQ, and The First Day for some help getting started.

Create World

Each character you create lives in a world. Any number of characters can live in that world and pillage each other's corpses, but first you must create a world and choose the mods and world generation options that will define this sandbox. You must do this before you create the player that will inhabit the world.

From the initial menu choose [World] to see a sub-menu: [Create World] [Delete World] [Reset World]
Here, choose [Create World] and you will be sent to a new menu with tabs for Mods, World Gen Options, and a Confirmation. Use ? here for help on how to navigate each of these tabs as they do sometimes have tab-specific functions like moving around the Default, Blacklist, and Balance sub-categories for Mods.
Generally these tabs and options are well documented, but there is one instance that seems to raise the most questions. "Tall Buildings" mod and "Experimental z-levels" world gen option are two different things. Tall Buildings adds buildings to the game that are built into the z-levels above where the player begins; nothing like this exists in the game if this mod is not turned on. If Tall Buildings is turned on without z-levels then you can still visit and climb these buildings, but anything outside of your current z-level is frozen in time. Enabling Experimental z-levels allows z-levels outside of your current level to be active including monster movement, detection of sound, and running vehicles to name a few. This applies to buildings already in the game which go into negative z-levels like [Lab|Labs], but allows for more experimentation with Tall Buildings turned on. There are edge cases that come into play, like NPCs not following you across z-levels unless Experimental z-levels is turned on, but that's what we get for an experimental function at this point in the game's development. Like most of the latest features in the Experimental versions of the game releases z-levels aren't generally buggy long (if at all) so don't let this scare you away from trying the most current version of the game even if z-levels aren't fully functional yet.

Create Character

Once a world is created it is time to populate it with your avatar. There are many ways to customize and challenge yourself with your character creation including self-imposed rules from the web tools page and the scenario challenges in-game.

From the initial menu choose [New Game] to see a sub-menu: [Custom Character] [Preset Character] [Random Character] [Play Now!]
[Preset Character] is used when you reach the end of character creation the first time. There you can choose to save your choices as a template with ! to re-load all your stat, trait, and skill choices again should you fail in your attempt to survive C:DDA.
[Random Character] is what it says on the tin. This is good for a challenge or getting into a different play style, but it is also good to have a filled-out character brought up ready to complete your first time through. Here you can easily see how a completed character may look and you can randomize (%) it further or, following the documentation and help (?), move back through the tabs (<) to see how the choices added up when they were randomized.
[Custom Character] is a blank slate for you to work with from start to finish.

Point Pools

Point pool choices are a relatively new addition to the experimental versions and really only need detailed explanation for the "Multiple Pools" version of point allocation.

Multiple Pools

Multiple pool point allocation was designed with balance and flavor in mind. Generally, with the single pool allocation, skills are ignored by players because of the relative ease by which they are raised with books. This system allows points to move down from their importance in stats where points are very important, down to traits, and finally skills, but not back up the list.

This progression can be clouded by the fact that the tabs of the character creation menu do not follow this order, but if you recognize that fact it can remove some of the confusion.
2 points by default:
Stats Traits Skills
2 points to allocate within stats 2 points to allocate within traits plus any unused points from stats 2 points to allocate within skills, plus any unused points from stats, plus any unused points from traits, plus any points from scenarios, plus any points from professions
This means you can go 3 negative in your traits pool, for example, by taking only positive traits that add up to a 5 total cost as long as you create a surplus of points in your stats pool by reducing the number of points allocated in one your stats by 1 and leaving 3 un-allocated.
The skills pool is subject to additions and subtractions from scenarios and professions.
This thread has a discussion about this feature, you can browse commit comments on the feature, and an understanding discussion for further reading.


You can modify a total of four Stats, each one of them is unique and will help change certain aspects such as player HP, damage, maximum weight that he/she can carry etc.

For all stats, minimal values are 4 and increasing values above 14 will cost 2 points instead of 1! 14 is considered to be very high, the max human value. Players can go higher, but those values should be considered exceptionally high.

At the default value of 8 the bonuses are the following:

Strength 8 Dexterity 8 Intelligence 8 Perception 8
  • Base HP: 84
  • Carry Weight: 170lbs (45kg)
  • Melee Damage: 4
  • Melee to-hit bonus: +5
  • Throwing Bonus: 0
  • Ranged Penalty: -60
  • Reading Time: 100%
  • Skill Rust: 50%
  • Ranged Penalty: -60
Note that the starting values are 8. Below that the points you receive may not follow the formulas below.
Strength Dexterity Intelligence Perception
  • Each point increases your HP by 3.
  • Each point increases your Carry Weight by 9lbs. (4kg)
  • Every 2 points increase your Melee Damage by 1.

Strength also makes you more resistant to many diseases and poisons, and makes actions which require brute force (pushing heavy stuff, bashing down furniture and walls) more effective.

Detailed Strength Effects

  • Every 2 points increase your Melee to-hit bonus by 1.
  • Every point above 9 (10, 11, etc.) increases your throwing bonus by 1.
  • Each point decreases your Ranged Penalty by 15. It cannot be brought above zero.

Dexterity also enhances many actions which require finesse, such as dodging, martial arts special attacks and bonus attacks granted by mutations.

Detailed Dexterity Effects

  • Each point decreases your Read Times by 5%.
  • Each point decreases you Skill Rust by 3.5% (rounded up).

Intelligence is also used when crafting, installing bionics, and interacting with NPCs. Advanced books also have intelligence requirement. Not meeting this requirement significantly increases reading time.

Detailed Intelligence Effects

  • Each point decreases your Ranged Penalty by 15. It cannot be brought above zero.

Perception is also used for detecting traps and other things of interest

Detailed Perception Effects

Hit points

The hight of the strength value and any hit point reducing or increasing starting trait you picked determine how many hit points each body part has. The default for a strength of 8 is 84 hit points for each body part.

Normally the exact remaining hit point value of each body part is hidden, unless you have the Self-aware trait. If your torso or head ever goes below 1 hit point, you die. If any other body part is reduced to zero hit points or lower, it gets broken. Which might be a bit hard to heal.

The easiest ways you can regain your hit points is by using healing items, sleeping if you are healthy.

If the bodypart is red, that body part is bleeding, and will lose hit points over time.

Important to note is that not only can your body parts get damaged, you can also get Infected. Which can end the live of your survivor in a different way, read the infection page for more information. You can get infected from deep bite wounds, which turn the body part blue. Over time these bite wounds fester and turn infected, which changes the color of the body part green.


In the experimental version there is a stamina level. You slowly regain it over time, and it reduces when you do straining things, like fight, or run (via the " ), or anything else that makes you go out of breath. If you have low stamina, some actions take longer to accomplish. There are various ways to increase or decrease your maximum stamina, such as the Languorous and, Indefatigable traits. And other mutations such as extreme metabolism increase the rate at which you regain stamina.

Hidden Stats

There are also various hidden stats, you cannot directly influence them during character creation, but they do have an effect.

See the Hidden stats page for more information.


Traits are special 'traits' that you can pick when generating a new character. Ingame they work like mutations, and share user interface space with mutations. In the game code, all traits are in fact mutations, with a special internal value included making it clear they are a trait.

Traits are split between positive ones, which cost points and help your character, and negative ones, which give you points and hinder your character. The right selection of traits can mean the difference between a living survivor and a rotting corpse.

Several starting professions also grant you special profession traits which are based on the characters' career before the Cataclysm and grant you access to equipment and places that you might not otherwise be able to attain among other bonuses.

Take a look at full list of traits.


Level Turn
1 32768
2 16384
3 8192
4 4096
5 2048
6 1024
7+ 512

Skills are raised upon practice (combat, crafting, tools usage). Practice is is multiplied by your current focus / 100; therefore focus pool level above 100 provides a bonus to the amount of skill gained, while amounts below 100 provide a penalty. The focus pool is not capped, but it requires higher morale to increase to higher levels, every few turns your focus is increased or decreased depending on your current morale. You can increase the speed at which you gain focus by increasing your morale.

As of 0.C (Cooper), performing a crafting or construction task of certain difficulty can only bring your skill to (difficulty*1.25)+1, rounded down. For example, boiling water and digging pits (skill 0) will only bring cooking and construction to 1. Even the easiest task will still stop skill rust.

You can also increase skill levels by reading books or being taught by NPCs. Note that reading skill books costs focus, but being trained does not.

You can toggle on and off the skill-gain of individual skills by pressing RETURN in the Skills section of the player menu @.

The Melee and Firearms skill will improve both accuracy and damage of their respective weapons, but not as much as the weapon's main skill (handguns, cutting weapons etc.)

Stats will also affect a player's skills by making them more/less effective depending on the value of the stat. Dexterity will affect the accuracy and effectiveness for most attacks. Strength will affect the damage of all melee attacks. Intelligence can improve certain skills, increase the rate of learning, and reduce the time needed to read a book. Perception can increase a player's accuracy for ranged attacks, and increases trap detection.

Complete skills list.